After God had appeared to Moses in the wilderness and revealed himself as “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14), Moses set out to return to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and to tell him to let the captive Israelites go. Moses took his wife, Zipporah, and his sons with him on the journey. But along the way, something strange happened. Here is how it is recorded in the Bible.
Exodus 4:24-26 (ESV)
24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.
This passage raises several important questions. Who did the Lord meet with in verse 24? Who did the Lord seek to put to death? And what had this person done that was worthy of death?
The most natural reading of the text is that the Lord was meeting with Moses to put Moses to death, but the original Hebrew language would allow for the Lord to be seeking to put Moses’ son to death. For our purposes, we will consider the more natural reading of the text, but before we do this, we will need to travel over 400 years into the past, to the time of Abraham.
When Abraham was an old man the Lord appeared to him to reiterate a covenant he had already made with Abraham. This event is recorded in the Bible as follows.
Genesis 17:1-8 (ESV)
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
The “sign of the covenant” that the Lord made with Abraham was circumcision. The Lord said to Abraham,
Genesis 17:10-14 (ESV)
10 “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
This “sign of the covenant” was a sign that was to be continued “throughout your generations,” and 400 years later God chooses Moses to be his mouthpiece before Pharaoh, but Moses had not kept the “sign of the covenant,” not even with his own children.
With our 21st century sensibilities, we might consider it strange that God would take something this simple so seriously, but God is always honored when we obey. Moses had not obeyed what God had clearly taught and it nearly cost him his life. This incident serves as a judgment or as a warning about the importance for the children of God to keep the commands of God. God takes his commandments seriously.
This message is confirmed just a few verses later when in Exodus 5:3, Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
God had already shown himself to Moses in such a way that Moses knew God was serious about his people keeping his commandments, so with a serious tone, Moses and Aaron say, “Lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
And God is still serious about his people keeping his commandments. In the new covenant we are no longer bound by physical circumcision since now our hearts have been spiritually circumcised (see Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:28-29; Colossians 2:11-12), but God is still concerned about his people following him in obedience.
Are you following the Lord in obedience? Here are just three questions to consider.
- If you’ve been born again, have you followed the Lord in obedience through believer’s baptism? See Acts 8:36, 38; 16:33; 18:8; 1 Corinthians 12:13.
- Are you a member of a local church? The New Testament knows nothing of a believer who is not ultimately affiliated with a local body of believers. The Scriptures here are too numerous to mention. A great resource to think about church membership is Jonathan Leeman’s little blue book, Church Membership.
- Is your life characterized by holiness? This doesn’t mean that you live a perfect life, but is your life characterized by a pursuit of holiness. Another great resource is Jerry Bridge’s book, The Pursuit of Holiness.
For His Glory,